Peer reviewing sites

My last post here was about Youwriteon, and this one is about Youwriteon.

I suppose most of us writers have gone through this route; or if we haven’t, we should.

When I had finished ‘Going out in the midday sun’ I was happily sending out the first three chapters to agents, vaguely keeping an eye on the rejections and wondering what to do next. Then I discovered a whole other world out there, totally by chance. The peer reviewing sites. Youwriteon looked quite friendly with its pink and beige site, so I duly loaded up the first seven thousand words, not really knowing what the site was about. Amazing . . . people read the words and sent back reviews: some pathetic, some enlightening.

A couple of weeks later I logged on and found I was in the Top Ten; I hadn’t even noticed there was one. Then I was hooked. It became a sort of neurotic game: logging on rather too often to see if someone had ‘booked out’ my chapters, and doing rather too many reviews in an addicted fashion. The book hovered around in the top ten for a couple of weeks and then someone ‘sunk it’ with a very good, probably accurate in many places, review, and I was mortified. Then comes the point where you have a lot of reviews and the annoying pointless sniper attack ones start to weigh against the good ones, moving the book down the charts.

This is probably the time to re-load the book with its alterations and get new reviews, or forget it and take the advice and suggestions that were valuable. Easy to say . . . just another — shit, a stupid write up where someone has filled their statuary hundred words and given you two’s out of five’s.

What the site, and presumably others are good for:

Totally and unbelievably useful as a sounding board and general leveler: is your stuff as good as you think? How can it be improved? People out there don’t know you — EXPOSED, you are; how does the work stand up to public scrutiny?

I found it to be an inspiration to write more, push myself, experiment. Also, critiquing other people’s work is useful: annoying sometimes, but on the whole, rewarding, inspiring and a great learning curve. Without the site I probably never would have found the enjoyment in writing short stories which are to my mind such a brilliant tool for playing, trying ideas and prodding the grey matter.

I’ve learned SO much about grammar — a weak point for me having fallen into the 1970’s comprehensive system. Still learning!

My short story that was at number one, did make it through into the ‘best seller’chart and at that point I did breath a small sigh of relief, so perhaps the competitive thing would still be there if it hadn’t have gone through — difficult to say.

What they are not so good for:

Well nothing really; it’s just how YOU use them. Load up the stuff, take the useful crits (sometimes fantastically detailed, thoughtful and SO valuable) ignore the stupid ones (I just had one that praised me very highly, then said at the end, ‘I wish I had given you higher marks as you are obviously a very good writer’ then proceeded to award me dismal marks — useless on all counts.) celebrate if you get high up in the charts, but remember it’s not the reason you have put the stuff up there.

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Cold day heating

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Nasty grey cold day but with large sunny interval. 

The short story (The hundred and fifty-eighth book) on the last post is number one in the ‘Youwriteon’ chart, and another of mine (The couch) is at seven. Going out in the midday sun is bobbing around at around eighteen, and has been for some time. It was in at six a couple of months back, so maybe will climb again. Anyway, nice warm day today despite the thermometer hovering around one degrees.

Reading aloud

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It’s always good to listen to your own stuff read by someone else. (Hello Gill)

To squirm, flinch as something is uttered that perhaps you should have taken out? A phrase you might have considered many times but hung onto: but it’s good, but does it work there  . . . really? No it’s bad, slows the whole pace, chop it, press delete, or hide it in a notebook for another time.

Actually this was alright. A reading in an art exhibition to a very small crowd. I wasn’t surprised as it was mostly French folk visiting the various galleries and my French is certainly not up to translation. It was just a very useful exercise in getting the text off the computer and in front of unknown people.

This is why ‘you write on’ is so good too. A site for aspiring and published writers; you load up some of your precious chapters and wait for the critical missiles to land in your email account: scary but so useful. My first book is out on Amazon now but there are quite a few changes since then in the manuscript. Perhaps there always would be.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=going+out+in+the+midday+sun

Yes. I think.

Well it’s going to have to do.

The latest copy arrived; only one mistake spotted so far ‘Savile’ Row spelt with two L’s. I checked the chapter headings, the print is straight, the page numbers are numbers and not question marks as in an earlier copy. I had a useful critic on ‘You write on’ mainly positive but pointing out a few things I might have changed, BUT, I want to move on. 

So on to number two. Just the editing to do . . . cover, fifteen million checks etc etc.

Here is a photo of all bar one of the rough manuscripts, which are now residing in the paper recycling bin. Onward and forward.Image

Just another quick scan through . . .

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Quick scan resulted in at least thirty typos and a spectacular mistake at the start of a chapter.

Think I’m getting the hang of this now.

Get new copy, confine oneself to bed with tea and no phone. Read. Even though you think you’ve checked every single word, even though you can recite chunks in your sleep. Even though you are so ‘into’ the text that you suddenly stop in the supermarket, box of pasta in hand — shit that should have been a colon on page seventy-five, not a comma. Even then there will be an error somewhere.

To sooth myself I looked up ‘publishing mishaps’. The best was probably a pasta book published by Penguin. At some point the text read: take a teaspoon of freshly ground black people . . .

No hole would be big enough to swallow you up.

YES! almost . . .

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All you other writers out there, all of you who have entered into the world of self-publishing, you know, I’m sure, what those last few hours of faffing with text and loading it all up is like . . . Finally after tears of frustration I pressed the publish button and it was all over — buy a proof copy? yes good idea. Very good idea as when I got the book. delivered pretty promptly by UPS, I had a good scan and found some glaring errors. How can I have read the damned thing forty times and not seen that chapter 21’s date was 199 rather 1999? I do remember correcting it but perhaps I didn’t save it . . . ? Anyway I’m impressed with the Lulu result so far and isn’t incredible that these things exist?

You send a pdf to where? somewhere in . . . I really don’t know where, America’s a big place; I’m not even sure if my little book passed through some huge automated machine there or in the UK. I suppose I have a romantic idea of some old bloke with a pipe and a labrador sitting by a fire in a darkened room — click — Oh another manuscript captain, go fetch, thanks, now what’s this one about? Better get the press set up again.

How many books must this factory/office/place produce every day/ How many people like myself wait keenly to see the finished product of their months/years of painstaking work?

I hope I ordered the ISBN number this time so my effort can clamber onto the pile of waiting titles to be logged onto the vast planet of Amazon.

I’ll let you know.